We went to an Italian dinner party last Saturday. Due to an interesting combination of circumstances, there’s all sorts of people from all sorts of countries at these events. They’re always very convivial and it’s a bit like the ideal big family party, in which the food is amazing AND you actually like everyone ?
One of the guests was D. He’s such a warm person and always so cheerful, but also very interested in people, not just one of those annoyingly “bubbly” characters (we all know someone like that!).
Part of his family come from this area of Italy called Alghero, in Sardinia, who speak a language similar to Catalan. This provided for one of the most exciting moments of this year as I got to meet his family that were visiting London, and we managed to understand each other by speaking Algherese and Valencian respectively. How can we understand each other by speaking different languages, you might wonder? Because both are dialects of Catalan! This was a bit of an “Alice through the looking glass moment”, but in a “Sole through the Catalan textbook moment” version, as I was talking to someone who was using a version of Catalan that sounded positively old-fashioned. I wonder how did I sound to them! It was as if I had met a mythical creature after learning about this strange region in Italy where they speak Catalan. So very interesting!
But there was a different delight in store on Saturday. D said he had brought something for us. How intriguing! I genuinely didn’t know what to expect, but then he produced this bottle of liquid gold (i.e. olive oil, for those of you who don’t understand Mediterranean people):
He had brought more – in fact they came all the way home carrying multiple bottles like this. We got to try it on M’s delicious sourdough bread. Oh wow. That was absolutely fantastic (and I should write about M’s breadmaking skills and feast hosting abilities some other day).
It had been freshly extracted; the smell was absolutely beautiful. It had that sort of balanced spiciness that gently wakes up your nose and says “hello! am I not pretty?” and then hugs you and elevates whatever you pour it over. And I’m not exaggerating, I swear.
I took good care of this bottle myself. I held it closely, carefully keeping it upright, all the way up from South London, on a Night Tube. My partner kept excitedly saying it was our first time on a Night Tube, but I have a vague memory that I have taken it before on my own. I might have been a merry traveller maybe, and that’s why I don’t remember. Or maybe I have dreamed it.
Either way. I have been (not so secretly now) sniffing it each time I get into the kitchen, and agonising trying to decide if the salad I just prepared will be good enough for this oil, or if I should “just” use the upscale Greek oil I got from Borough Market a couple weeks ago. I feel sorry it will eventually be over. A good problem to have!
And now let’s step back almost 15 years ago (!), the first (and last time) I visited Speaker’s Corner. I found this guy defending olive oil and sipping it from a bottle:
What an experience! (I hope you’ll excuse the terrible video and audio quality, but 2004’s cameras weren’t what we’re used to nowadays, what with the portable full HD cameras in our pocket…)
I wonder how would this speaker feel about D’s olive oil…
In the meantime, I’m very grateful for the gift. So thoughtful… and delicious! ?